Diocese of Washington and New York (OCA)

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The Diocese of Washington and New York was the reemergence with a new name of the original Diocese of New York and New Jersey after it had been split to form the Diocese of Washington as a separate diocese. The Diocese of Washington and New York was formed when the two dioceses were re-merged in 2005, and was dissolved in 2009.


The history of the diocese as the see of the ruling hierarch of the Orthodox Church in America begins with the efforts of the first missionary in New York City. First presence of Orthodoxy in New York City's can be traced to 1870, when Fr. Nicholas Bjerring, a convert from Denmark, was directed by Metropolitan Isidore of St. Petersburg to open the first Orthodox Church in New York City. Services for the congregation were held in a chapel within Fr. Nicholas' house. In 1885 the Russian government withdrew its support of the parish due to the small membership.

The oldest parish within the diocese that still functions is SS Peter and Paul Church is Buffalo, NY (founded April, 1894). Among the early missionary priests to serve the parish were Fr. John Nedzelnitsky, the Dean of Eastern States, and Fr. John Kochurov (glorified in 1994 by the Russian Orthodox Church). In 1895, a second mission in New York City was established called The Russian Greek Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas, that began to flourish under the direction of its second pastor, Fr. Alexander Hotovitzky (also recently glorified by the Russian Orthodox Church).

Visual representation of the Diocese of Washington and New York

Hierarchical See

In 1901, Bp. Tikhon (later Patr. and St. Tikhon) laid the cornerstone for the Cathedral of St. Nicholas, which was completed in 1904, and from which he directed the Russian Mission in America until he was called back to Russia in 1907.

The cathedral served the needs of Orthodox Christians in New York and throughout the country until 1926. As a fallout of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, the cathedral was declared the legal property of American representatives of the "Living Church". The head of the Russian Mission, Metropolitan Platon was restrained from further use of archdiocesan property. Temporary facilities were used as the diocesan cathedral until 1943 when a former Episcopalian church at 59 East Second Street in lower Manhattan was purchased and renovated. The new cathedral was dedicated to the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos. Over the next 30 some years, the cathedral on 2nd Street served as the headquarters of the mission in America, housing offices of the chancery and related national organizations until the late 1960s when many of activities were moved to the Syosset property. Until then the 2nd Street cathedral was used for convening meetings of the Metropolitan Council, the Holy Synod of Bishops (known until autocephaly as the "Great Council of Bishops"), and several All-American Sobors. For many years most episcopal consecrations and ordinations to the diaconate and priesthood also took place in the lower Manhattan cathedral.

Diocese of the Ruling Hierarch

Orthodoxy in America began with the arrival from Russia of Orthodox missionaries at Kodiak Island in 1794. The administrative center of the mission in America, with the eventual sale of Alaska to the United States in 1867, moved from Sitka to San Francisco in 1872. By the time that Bp. Tikhon arrived to administer the mission in 1898 and had made several extended pastoral journeys in North America, it was obvious to him that the concentration of parishes and faithful was in the eastern United States. He recommended that the official name of the mission be changed to the "Diocese of the Aleutians and North America" and suggested that the diocesan see be transferred to New York. This occurred in 1905. From that time until 1980 the parishes in the New York-New Jersey geographic area, and later those in the Washington, DC area, were officially under the auspices of the ruling hierarch of what is now the Orthodox Church in America (OCA).

The formal establishment of the Diocese of New York and New Jersey occurred after the grant of autocephaly in 1970. As the diocese was the see of the ruling hierarch of the mission, and later of the autocephalous church, it supported the national Church's administration. The administrative offices were located, first, in New York City at the Holy Protection Cathedral and later, since about 1967, in Oyster Bay Cove/Syosset, NY. The location of the national administration in the Diocese as well as the presence of St. Vladimir's Seminary allowed the Diocese to benefit from the leadership of the Church in America.

At the 6th All-American Council, Holy Synod of Bishops decided to form a new Diocese of Washington, DC by splitting off the Washington area of the diocese. The new diocese in the nation's capital city began functioning in 1981 as the see of the Primate of the Orthodox Church in America. However, the national administrative offices remained at Syosset, within the Diocese of New York and New Jersey.

In 1981, the Diocese of New York and New Jersey became one of the local dioceses under its own hierarch, Bp. Peter with his see at the Holy Protection Cathedral.

St. Nicholas Cathedral, Washington, DC

The formation of the Diocese of Washington included the areas of the Capital proper (District of Columbia), Maryland, southern Delaware, and northern Virginia. The St. Nicholas Cathedral in Washington was the see for the Metropolitan. At its inception the new diocese included only a few parishes, those in the Baltimore and Washington metropolitan areas. During the following two decades after formation of the diocese a number of new parishes formed as the population of the diocese increased.

In 2005, after the 2002 election of Metr. Herman as the ruling hierarch of the OCA and with the retirement of Abp. Peter, the Holy Synod of the OCA remerged the dioceses of New York and New Jersey and Washington as the Diocese of Washington and New York. St. Nicholas Cathedral in Washington was designated the see of the ruling hierarch.

With the retirement of Metropolitan Herman, in September of 2008, the locum tenens of the diocese became Archbishop Dmitri (Royster), assisted by Archbishop Seraphim (Storheim) as administrator. In November of 2008, His Grace, Bishop Jonah of Fort Worth was elected Archbishop of Washington and New York and Metropolitan of All America and Canada at the 15th All-American Council of the Orthodox Church in America.

In 2009, the Holy Synod of the OCA re-established the seperate dioceses of Washington and of New York and New Jersey, restoring the diocesan make-up as it was from 1981-2005.


The diocese included four deaneries with parishes in the states of New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Virginia in 2008:

  • Washington DC Deanery
    • Delaware: 1
    • Maryland: 4
    • District of Columbia: 1
    • Virginia: 5
  • New Jersey Deanery
    • New Jersey: 23
    • New York: 4
  • New York City Deanery
    • New York: 13
  • New York State Deanery
    • New York: 14

(Note: the state of Delaware also includes a parish of the Diocese of Eastern PA, the state of Maryland has a parish of the Romanian Episcopate (OCA), the District of Columbia includes two parishes of the Bulgarian Diocese (OCA), and the state of Virginia includes five parishes of the Diocese of the South and two parishes of the Diocese of the Romanian Episcopate (OCA).)

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